Ponce de Leon Discovers the Calusa

It is generally believed that Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer to discover Pine Island and the Calusa Indians of this region.  The following is excerpted from the book, St. James City-The Early Years, and credited below.

“After his discovery of La Florida in 1513, he proceeded to sail south along the coast and rounded the peninsula and headed north to beyond “some islands which jutted out into the sea”.  Some historians believe those we near Tampa Bay, but most believe they were Sanibel and Captiva.  The expedition turned south and sailed along Sanibel beach and through the shoals into San Carlos Bay.  They then turned north and sail up through Pine Island Sound, at last dropping anchor along Pine Islands northwestern shore.  Ponce de Leon and his men spent the next 21 days on Pine Island in search of rumored treasure.”

In 1521 Ponce de León organized a colonizing expedition on two ships. It consisted of some 200 men, including priests, farmers and artisans, 50 horses and other domestic animals, and farming implements. The expedition landed on the southwest coast of Florida, in the vicinity of Caloosahatchee River or Charlotte Harbor. The colonists were soon attacked by Calusa braves and Ponce de León was injured when, historians believe, an arrow poisoned with the sap of the Manchineel tree struck his thigh. After this attack, he and the colonists sailed to Havana, Cuba, where he soon died of the wound. He was buried in Puerto Rico, in the crypt of San José Church from 1559 to 1836, when his remains were exhumed and later transferred to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista.  Credit Wikipedia

Credit Historia general de los hechos de los Castillanos en las islas i tierra firme del Mar Oceano (General History of the Deeds of the Castilians in the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea), first published 1601-1615 by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas Page 42 for the map.

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